Introduction: Since 2015, interest in the benefits of outdoor play for physical, emotional, social and environmental health, well-being and development has been growing in Canada and elsewhere.
Methods: This scoping review aims to answer the question, “How, and in what context, is children’s and youth’s outdoor play being studied in Canada?” Included were studies of any type on outdoor play published after September 2015 in English or French by authors from Canadian institutions or assessing Canadian children and/or youth. Articles retrieved from MEDLINE, CINAHL and Scopus by March 2021 were organized according to eight priority areas: health, well-being and development; outdoor play environments; safety and outdoor play; cross-sectoral connections; equity, diversity and inclusion; professional development; Indigenous Peoples and land-based outdoor play; and COVID-19. Within each priority, study design and measurement method were tallied.
Results: Of the 275 articles included, the most common priority area was health, well-being and development (n = 239). The least common priority areas were COVID-19 (n = 9) and Indigenous Peoples and land-based outdoor play (n = 14). Cross-sectional studies were the most common; the least common were rapid reviews. Sample sizes varied from one parent’s reflections to 999 951 data points from health databases. More studies used subjective than objective measurement methods. Across priorities, physical health was the most examined outcome, and mental/emotional development the least.
Senior Scientist, CHEO Research Institute